Month: March 2012

Why use an RSS Feed Reader?

What’s an RSS Feed Reader used for?

RSS is a tool for getting information from people without having to keep visiting their website to get it and is a fantastic digital marketing tool. You can subscribe to their information, have it sent to you and read it whenever you like. Once you have set up your subscriptions, you can then choose from a list of them all in the one place.

company bulletins – news bulletins – arts launches – performance updates – weather updates 

personal blogs – podcasts – club updates – sporting fixtures – fan newsletters – special offers

Use an RSS Feed Reader to subscribe to blogs, news &  podcasts
  1. Install an RSS feed reader:

An RSS  feed reader is basically a storage space for your subscriptions so you can read through all your items without having to visit each website. It really is as simple as that – the feed reader searches for the latest updates to your subscriptions and downloads them to your computer.

There are two types of feed readers you can utilise. We used to have to install a dedicated feed reader program to manage our subscriptions, and this is still a great method – though you need to run the program to get it to update your subscriptions. This used to be a concern with older computers (another program to use up thinking space!) but these days our computers easily handle the additional program. And as the RSS reader downloads the content to your computer, you can read your feeds anytime you want without having to be connected to the internet.

The other type of feed reader being used more frequently these days are web browser-based readers. These take up less space and don’t require an extra program to be installed, but reading your feeds offline can be a hassle – in fact, it’s recommended that a separate program is installed to synchronise with your browser-based reader if you want to read feeds offline. In this age of constant connectivity via mobile devices browser-based readers are becoming more popular.

  1. Finding RSS feeds you are interested in:

First thing is to visit your favourite websites and look for the RSS symbol . Clicking on this symbol on a website triggers your feed reader to set up a subscription and you’ll be able to keep in touch with all their latest news directly from your reader.

A great place to start looking for feeds you might be interested in is an RSS Feed Syndicate. This is a website that collates feeds and sorts multiple RSS Feeds by categories, so you don’t need to go trawling around the internet searching for new feeds to read. There are a few comprehensive general syndicates, as well as some specific topic-based syndicates – check out your favourite search engine for a list.

  1. Podcasts using an RSS Feed:

Audio and video podcasts can be collected in a very similar way, though you will need a media player to play them in. Most computers will have a media player installed already, though if you have problems make sure you have the correct codec installed for the type of file you are trying to play – check out your media player’s help.

Many RSS feed readers will be able to subscribe to podcasts as well as text. And newer media players will be able to subscribe to podcasts. So you can really treat podcasts and feeds as the same thing, these days.

In these days of an over abundance of information using an RSS Feed can really help you stay on top of what you want to know, whilst not wasting your time on things that don’t interest you.

 

How to use Excel in your art business

Using Excel in your arts administration:

Arts Administration – for many artists it’s the side of their practice they’d rather not think about, but in our economic culture it’s an integral aspect of any successful Art Business. Luckily with the advent of technology, we have tools at our disposal that can help us manage this side quickly and easily.

Spreadsheet applications like Excel are my favourite way to manage the administration of art – in fact I consider it an artform in itself. The beauty of Excel for me is the simplicity of its function, and its ability to be manipulated to perform various tasks.

How to use Excel: The Basic Theory

Quite simply, Excel is a sheet of rectangles, or cells, into which information can be entered. This information can be two types:

  • Data
    • Words
    • Numbers
  • Instructions involving other cells
    • Total the list above
    • Calculate the total price times the number of items
    • Add up the total hours worked for each day

So it can be used either as a database or a spreadsheet. What do these terms mean?

A database is a record of information that can be maintained and sorted through easily. Some examples of how artists could use a database are:

  • Using Excel as a Contact list
    • A mailing list of people to invite to exhibitions or performances
    • A list of contact people in the industry
    • A list of possible venues to stage events in
    • A list of galleries that can be sorted by the area they are in or the styles they show
    • A list of annual competitions that can be sorted by area or genre
  • Catalogues of works
  • Timetables for events

For example, here’s a database for galleries you may approach for exhibitions:

 

Galleries in Melbourne

name

suburb

painting

sculpture

photography

contact

email

Star Gallery Sunshine

x

x

Bill a@b.com
Moon Gallery Blackburn

x

x

Sam c@d.com
Ocean Gallery Fitzroy

x

x

Judy e@f.com

Using this database we can then use Excel to sort a list of all the galleries in a certain suburb, or which medium they exhibit. And you have the contact details recorded for easy retrieval. And as you discover new galleries, you can add them to the list as you go and have a comprehensive list to draw from.

A spreadsheet like a blackboard with rows and columns marked to create rectangles where they intersect. You choose what the rows and columns mean, whether they are some data or an instruction. Some examples of how artists could use a spreadsheet are:

Using Excel to keep track of costs of a project:

  • the budget for a project
  • time slot calculations for events
  • ticket pricing for events

For example, you may want to work out the budget for an art project. You would make the columns represent the cost of an item and the rows represent each item:

Arts project budget

projected cost

actual cost

materials

paint

cost

cost

brushes

cost

cost

spray compressor hire

cost

cost

total materials

total above

total above

admin

wages

cost

cost

contractors

cost

cost

studio rent

cost

cost

transport costs

cost

cost

total admin

total above

total above

total budget

materials plus admin

materials plus admin

 

We can use this for the projected budget and then the actual budget on the same page, so we can compare how accurate the projections are. You can see that we also have two sections, materials and admin. This could be any number of sections, depending on how complicated your project is – an arts festival might have sections on venue hire, technical services, equipment hire, admin, volunteer expenses, commissions…

The purple boxes are where you would enter the data, as mentioned at the start. The green squares are where you would enter instructions, in this case the sum of all the costs in the list above. The orange squares would also contain an instruction, but this time it would be the sum of the two green squares above, to add up the cost of the materials plus the cost of the admin.

 

 

Arts project budget

projected cost

actual cost

materials

paint

10

20

brushes

20

15

spray compressor hire

180

180

total materials

210

215

admin

wages

180

270

contractors

400

400

studio rent

360

360

transport costs

40

75

total admin

980

1105

total budget

1190

1320

 

The beauty of using a spreadsheet to calculate budgets is that once you have all the cells programmed, any changes you make to the cost of an item will automatically alter the total figures. The project can be planned with a budget limit in mind, making the job of projecting a budget quicker and easier – you can see the effect of the changes in the total immediately.

These are just a couple of simple examples of how to use Excel to make the process of managing your art quicker and easier. I’ve also used it in events to create colour-coded timetables, in corporate administration to extract accounting information from reports and even in classical music composition to calculate musical pitches from manipulations of formulas.

It can be a really useful tool and well worth a small effort to familiarise yourself with it.

If you don’t want to go to the extent of purchasing Excel there is a wonderful Open Source Program called Calc that is part of the Libre Office Suite.

Clicking on the logos below will take  you to their respective official websites so you can download the program.

 

 

For more great resources on running a successful Art Business see our resources page here….

Castlemaine Artist: Ben Laycock

Castlemaine Artist: Ben Laycock

Think infamous artists in Castlemaine and immediately Ben Laycock comes to mind. Born with a paintbrush in his mouth, Ben has been a colourful member of this great arts community for close to two decades. But when I had the opportunity to interview him I didn’t know where to start. His studio is full of art and the various flotsam and jetsam that tell us loads about what informs and inspires his unique style. The bold palettes, landscapes that hit you right between the eyes. Ben is prolific.

I have known Ben for over 10 years and have worked with him on several community and artistic projects but I really didn’t know much about the journey through his creative past and its profound influence upon his view of the world. I think it is fair to say that he is a highly unconventional character who has chosen not to accept the values of the “real world”.

Who else would go on a five day hike through the bush without a pair of shoes.

To view Ben Laycock’s amazing Artwork click here…

Or to see more of Jim Coad’s video projection work through his project Video Architecture.

Both Ben & Jim are regular exhibitors in Arts Open 2012 an event where Castlemaine’s leading artists open their studios to the public.

Can your Business Name be Used as a Logo?

Using your business name as a logo:

Not all logos have to have a pretty picture or a mascot animal. A growing number of successful businesses are choosing to present their name as their logo. With the addition of a great font and a selection of colours, a simple business name can be transported into an eye catching logo.

The great thing about this method is that your clients don’t need to remember a name and a logo in association with your business. Sometimes the connection between a logo and a business name isn’t made if the name doesn’t appear on the logo.

Following is a list of businesses and companies using their name as a logo. You will find a mixture of very prominent and well known companies and smaller businesses, which goes to show that this method can work for anyone.

So here’s an obvious one! I don’t think there are many people in this age of mass produced furniture who don’t immediately recognize this logo. This is a very effective use of name as logo. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve picked up a glass and seen IKEA printed on the bottom. Without even the hesitation of a nanosecond I know exactly which company produced that glass, and where to get one.

Very handy advertising and logo recognition, especially if I’m in the market for some glass ware at the time.
logo d'eBay

Who wouldn’t recognize this logo?

Bold, brash and almost embarrassingly simple in its use of font and colours, the ebay logo is becoming one of the most recognizable logos, right up here with Apple and Nike.
Logo Google

Although the Google logo has undergone some changes over the years, with different fonts and layouts, overall it has kept that simple primary colour name logo. And let’s face it, it works for them. I don’t think many people go more than a day, or even half an hour, without seeing this logo. It is ingrained on computer workers brains; they probably even see it in their sleep.

Google is after all taking over the world!
Logo Design for mad monkey

The use of a monkeys face as the O in monkey allows the mind to use the picture to quicker identify with the words. After all we process pictures far quicker than words.

Funky font and two complementing earthy colours bring this business name logo together to great effect.

logo
This logo is cute and a little quirky while retaining simplistic style. It just goes to show that you don’t have to dramatically change your business name to make it a logo.

Just some imagination, addition of some colour and interest will work wonders.

 

Wow, it must have taken a design team many brainstorming sessions to come up with this design! Sarcasm aside, this is one of the world’s most successful companies and that albeit uninspiring logo is one of the most recognized logos in the world today.

What’s in a name? In this case, billions of dollars.

Astahaya Logo 1

Yes, even boats have logos.

And this is certainly a beautifully executed logo that will look beautiful on the back of a luxury yacht.

Often when we think of logos we think of graphic symbols that convey a company ethos, but as you can see some of the world’s biggest companies use their own name as a logo, just with a stylised font.

What kind of logo should your Business use?

 

Four Big Digital Marketing Tips

digital-marketing-tips

Digital marketing tips and how they can work for you:

What should I use to communicate with my clients, RSS, Emails, Twitter or Facebook?

Every day we are bombarded with new messages, news feeds and marketing and as a business, we must use digital technology to maintain market awareness and communicate with our clients. There is such a high level of competition on the internet we have so be ever more creative and clever to get noticed and attract potential customers. It’s all about making the effort to stay in touch so that our message continues to be heard.

A direct mail out used to be a big investment in stationery, printing and postage. With so many cheap and free options available these days, is there a better choice? Do we need to use them all?

Let’s take a brief look at our digital marketing page and how they can be used to stay in touch with your clients.

Digital Marketing Tips #1

RSS web feeds and blog subscriptions

RSS feeds are used by people who want to follow the latest writings from a particular blogger or stay informed of the latest information from news syndicates. RSS is a subscription without having to visit the website. RSS has grown since 1999 to be used by over 500,000 separate news feeds.

It’s popular because people can subscribe to RSS feeds without having to send any of their personal information over the internet. This security is one of the biggest features of RSS. Another big feature is that the software used to read the feeds automatically checks for new items. People can stay up to date with the latest writings about news items, their favourite blogs without having to visit each web page manually.

The largest RSS program used on websites would have to be Feedburner

If you happen to have a WordPress website then their RSS widget is simple to set up and functions just as it should- WordPress RSS Widget

It’s good for internet marketing in that way too – your clients can stay informed about all your latest offers, promotions and new products all from one piece of software. They do have to download and install the software, however, and then subscribe to your feed to get all the latest news. This is one of the drawbacks in the traditional marketing sense – you’re relying on clients to sign up to your message instead of being able to send your message directly to them. Which brings us to…

Digital Marketing Tips #2: Email Subscriptions

A cheap, easy way to get messages directly into people’s consciousness is to directly email them. Direct email is still the first internet marketing tool people think of when considering how to communicate with clients. Any organisation from multinational corporations to the local senior citizens club has an email database of some kind. It’s hard to imagine a world without email, but it really only has been widespread in the non-business world since the mid-late 1990s.

Unfortunately for email, the use of technology to send blanket marketing emails has led to a poor reputation for email marketing. Anything that looks even remotely like spam* gets deleted instantly – it’s made promoting your legitimate business with email much more difficult and much less appealing.

But it does give you control over who you market your products to, which is still a huge plus for email marketing. Email newsletters are increasingly popular and clients receiving these are much more likely to tell their email software that your emails are not junk.

I can’t speak highly enough of Mail Chimp. Your first 2,000 subscribers are free and then you pay a monthly fee based on subscriber numbers.

*The term spam for unwanted email really does come from the Monty Python sketch!

Internet Marketing Tips #3: Twitter

The next biggest Social Media website is Twitter. Basically Twitter is like an SMS (and is built on the same technology), but instead of you sending it directly to people, you send it out into the ether and anyone who has subscribed to you will receive it. Kind of like the RSS feeds we were talking about at the start of the article – except Tweets are limited to 140 characters only. It’s the most contracted form of communication and yet so popular that it’s difficult to ignore.

In fact the brevity of Twitter is also the allure. Modern urban life requires messages to be concise and succinct – direct and to the point. It’s all about what’s happening right this second – and it’s all about what’s trendy right now.

The trend angle is also what makes Twitter. Tweets are listed in order of what the most people are talking about, so if you can tailor your marketing to ride these waves you have a greater chance of success with Twitter.

Digital Marketing Tips #4: Facebook

Facebook has simply exploded into a must-have for anyone in today’s technological world. It’s established itself as an extension of human communication in the western world. But can it be used for marketing?

Not-for-profit organisations certainly make use of the social aspect of Facebook as an integral part of their internet marketing plan. At the moment, you don’t need to ask Facebook friends’ permission to add them to a group you create – but it does mean redefining the ‘personal’ friend into a ‘marketing’ friend. It works for the not-for-profit sector – can it work for the business sector?

If you are able to create a hype about your business on Facebook you’re off to a great start. Its cross-networking functionalities such as tagging and custom apps really can attract people to your page – these are what people really do love about Facebook. But it will require someone to maintain a whole extra web presence – you really only will get out of it as much as you put into it.

Why don’t be we become Facebook buddies?

 

Which digital marketing tip works for your business?

Do you have a full-time, dedicated marketing team? Then you should use them all!

And if you don’t…?

Although the old adage is still correct, you only get out of it what you put into it, each of these tools can be a useful, efficient method of getting your messages out there. Your web feed can become your email and even your Facebook post (check out the dedicated tools to do this automatically) meaning that you potentially can take advantage of much that is available.

And of course, tailoring your message to your client, which is so important, can actually be easier with these methods if you take some time to understand why they are popular with their users. How can you get yourself talked about?